Yesterday comedian and music festival expert Nick Youssef explained how to profit at Coachella when you’re a young and industrious early twentysomething. In his second essay he looks at how to survive Coachella when you’re an old and fragile late twentysomething.
We arrived the following year to an alarming realization: Coachella had changed. For starters, the desert was hot. There were ridiculously long lines for everything. A forty-minute wait for showers had my ankles throbbing. And all this was before 9AM. I thought a hearty, traditional festival breakfast would fix my aches so I slurped down five Jello shots. Nothing. Oddly, I wanted a wheatgrass shot. I could see it standing in my frosty air conditioned apartment right next to the Pepcid AC I so desperately needed. What kind of festival has stand after stand of burgers, hot dogs and chow mein, but nothing providing relief for the acid indigestion they all cause? Nobody had answers. Not even the employee that very rant was directed at. He merely offered an, “I don’t know dude,” as he handed me a Tylenol.
By nightfall I secretly wished our camp experience could resemble the one pictured on our tent box. Fluffy rabbits merrily hopping through the lush, beautiful, pine green serenity while I brew a fresh cup of coffee on a dewy, 72 degree morning, before I walk down to the river to read and reflect on the finer points of life. Instead, I was deeply entrenched in what felt like a hipster infantry that just pillaged a small town and set up camp to drink and party around drum circles. Back when Rage Against the Machine played in 2007 I would’ve led an attack on Palm Springs had there been a stirring speech led by Zach De La Rocha on a horse. The only target a mere two years later was the birthday celebration two tents over.
“She did it! Hooray for Sarah! Twenty-one! Drink! Drink! Drink!” They treated her as if she’d just been crowned Empress of Alcohol. Young people take the phrase ‘it’s the little things in life’ and turn it into the biggest things in the universe. If 21 year olds were in charge of Nobel prizes the categories would include had a birthday, shotgunned a ton of beers, showed up to a fast food job on time three days in a row/passing most or all of an STD test and woke up before 9AM on a Saturday.
We got earplugs to block their repeated, drunken renditions of the happy birthday song. They were dead to us. Then, we ran out of ice. As any experienced festivalgoer knows, the only thing as bitter as the sound of a three day birthday party is the taste of a boiling vodka cranberry.
After drawing the shortest straw, I plastered on a smile and headed over, praying they would say no, so we could further cement our hatred. I approached a girl lazily texting. I held up an empty cup, “Hey we were wondering if—“
“Sure! Have all the ice you need!”
“Are you sure? I mean—thank you. Thank you so much.”
I followed her over. While waiting, I noticed their tent had an interesting combination of smells. The Febreeze stood out at first but eventually gave way to the stench of dirty socks and discount booze. The floor was littered with pills, $100 ironic t-shirts, skinny jeans, and empty packs of Parliment cigarettes. I had walked into a scratch and sniff Instagram account, hashtag ‘Coachella4Eva.’
The rest of the visit was spent convincing one of the adventurer hat wearing drunkards that I was not undercover concert security. After promising him for the 7th time that I was not here to confiscate his Jagermeister, my bag of frozen freedom arrived. I headed towards the door when a voice behind me giggled and said:
“There is one condition. You have to sing happy birthday to Sarah with us.”
The worst part wasn’t them cheering her name as if commanded. Nor was it the straining of my already dust covered throat. It wasn’t even my unanswered prayers for heat stroke. The worst part was that my joining their birthday choir meant that we were now friends.
For the next day they came by to say hi and ask how our ice was doing. “Besides melting, it’s good.”
“We got more if you need it. And if you need anything else like Xanax or some Molly, let me know. $5 a pop. I’ll hook you up.”
Great, I’ve become buddies with The Pill Baron.
Their outgoing demeanors contradicted the hipster philosophy of ‘Whatever, Duuude.” Then again, maybe nice was the new over it. One thing that did remain stylish was looking as androgynous as possible. Skin tight clothing and semi-long hair dressed their 80lb frames. They spoke as if their voices stopped developing at 14. I could tolerate the drug offers and endless high fiving; what drove me nuts was not knowing whether I just stared at the ass of a guy, girl or genetic experiment gone awry.
My attempts to be distant failed. Our friendship had outlasted even the puddle where the ice once was. It was morning and I was stretching out the kinks and knots from the swollen, dirt covered mass I called my body. I struggled to prop myself upright when once of the gender chameleons from birthday central came running over:
“Dude, how rad was yesterday?! We were so pumped we didn’t even sleep!”
Ignoring it, I reached for my water bottle and pills. Its eyes lit up:
“Whoa what are those? Somas? Adderall? You know my friend sells—
“No dude, this is Advil and this is Centrum Performance.”
It has been a couple years since I have attended a three day desert music festival. I do miss them and I would gladly go back again, but at the age of 32, the key is prioritizing for who I am now. I have matured in many ways. I have now become a concertgoer that’s all about shade and places to sit. If a band is within earshot of the oasis I’ve found, awesome. If not? They probably suck. Methods evolve and the new one says that Pitchfork ratings are a distant second to where the sun is in the sky. 2PM? Fuck this bunch of amateur hacks. 6:15PM? This marginally coherent group of musicians is worth watching and discussing. After 8PM? This collection of geniuses is reinventing rock and roll before my very eyes. I hereby crown them The Gods of Everything.
As The Gods of Everything start their encore. I’ll use the opportunity to worm my way through the piles of wet trash, overflowing port-a-potties and independent water salesmen on my way to an exclusive after party in my hotel room. After a quick a mass text to my friends: ‘Fill me in tomorrow over coffee and oatmeal,” then I’ll slowly drift off to a campsite where I can read by a river and reflect on the days when I used to attend music festivals.
Nick Youssef is a Los Angeles-based comedian, writer and actor who’s been seen in numerous national TV commercials, guest roles on sitcoms such as NBC’s Animal Practice, the popular videogame LA Noire and a standup appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly. In August of 2014, Nick’s first stand-up album, Stop Not Owning This, debuted in the top 5 of the iTunes comedy charts and was featured in the January 2015 edition of Esquire Magazine. When not on tour, Nick hosts the Occasionally Awesome podcast on the All Things Comedy network and can be seen regularly performing stand up at The Comedy Store, Laugh Factory and Improv comedy clubs in Hollywood. Shower him with praise on Twitter @nickyoussef.